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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7256/the-heroic-richard-lindzen-on-global-warming/

The Heroic Richard Lindzen on Global Warming

October 3, 2007 by

Richard Lindzen is one of the heroic challengers to the scientific establishment on the topic of global warming, yet you don’t often hear about him. He is an an atmospheric physicist and the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When I picked up my October issue of Outside magazine, I was delighted to see the interview with him. Fortunately, the article is now online here.

Lindzen is a global warming doubter. As Outside notes, “With so many Americans searching for answers on climate change, an endowed MIT Professor with pithy quotes offers a level of assurance that few can rival.”

Lindzen says that atmospheric CO2 is a “minor atmospheric ingredient,” and describes global warming as a “red herring used to justify bad policy.” He has also challenged Al Gore’s simplistic and confused assertions on human-induced global warming. Lindzen points out that prior to the Industrial Revolution, average temperatures in Europe were rising, while the period after the Industrial Revolution saw the onset of global cooling. He asserts that, yes, temperatures have been rising for the last three decades, however, it is due to “fluctuations in temperature that have occurred for millions of years,” thus the cyclical changes we face are not catastrophic. Both he and Bjorn Lomborg understand the role of humans in contributing to global warming (from human-generated CO2), but both are very clear that the human contribution is far smaller than the Greenie Hysterics would have us believe.

The Outside article is written by Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin, and it cites Alexander Cockburn from Counterpunch as well as the Cato Institute.

Here is a list of Lindzen’s publications.


Sustainable World October 3, 2007 at 11:15 pm

It’s always interesting to see someone else’s viewpoints on these issues.



Thomas October 4, 2007 at 3:44 am

The problem for the neo-liberlist theory is, that there is no sensible reaction of humanity towards external or self induced existential threads like – global warming appears to be – which can be reconciled with neo-libralist paradigms of fighting state intervention to the tooth. Global problems require global solutions which require humanity to get organized, which in turn is impossible for the neo-libralist to accept. Hence the fog of denial and delusion spread in here and in like minded think tanks and ‘institutions’.
Like the southern Baptists fight the theory of evolution so the neo-liberalists pick a likewise silly fight against the accepted scientific consensus on global warming, its causes and its probable implications.

Brad Arnold October 4, 2007 at 4:25 am

It is elementary particle physics that if you removed all the CO2 from the air, the Earth would be much colder.

Therefore, it stands to reason that if you double the CO2 level in the air (like we are set to do by mid-century), then the Earth will get much hotter.

Furthermore, evidence from paleoclimatology is stark: there is a direct relationship between the level of CO2 in the air, and the temperature of the air and water.

Yeah, it sure takes alot of bravery to deny the above (or as I like to call it, gall).

James Redford October 4, 2007 at 6:00 am

Brad Arnold, you don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about.

For actual elementary particle physics, see the Standard Model:


See also:



Brett_McS October 4, 2007 at 8:07 am

Thanks for the post. Richard Lindzen is indeed a hero.

The earth would be colder if all the CO2 were removed from the air, but since water vapour is far and away the most important greenhouse gas it wouldn’t be much of a temperature change. However, all the plants – and thence animals – would die.

Anthony October 4, 2007 at 8:44 am

Thomas, the word is neo-liberals, of which you will find none here. Nice strawman though. Fun reading it.

Lincoln October 4, 2007 at 9:18 am

Actually Bjorn Lomborg believes what the IPCC is saying, that it is happening and that it is more likely than not enhanced by man. He just doesn’t believe that it is going to be catastrophic. I agree with his hesitation on the catastrophe but I don’t agree with sitting on our hands to do nothing. When man took fluorine from .6 PPB to 2 PPB with CFCs a hole in the ozone appeared. NASA, at first were the doubters. Everybody is now on board and it was a good thing the Montreal Protocol was enacted so skin cancer rates aren’t 30-40% now. CO2 is PPM, so clearly the tipping point is different. But should we wait and see? No.

Anthony October 4, 2007 at 9:41 am

Better enforcement of property rights would be a good start.

Lincoln October 4, 2007 at 9:42 am

BTW, yes water vapor is far and away the largest GHG but more CO2 (and other GHGs) allow the air to hold more water. The liftime of water vapor in the air is days. The lifetime of CO2 and other GHGs decades. If we are seeing any effects right now, which we are, we can expect to see the same types of effects for at least decades. And, since there will be no instant shut off of CO2, probably worsening effects for centuries. The only real debate I think is whether CO2 is a climate forcing or feedback mechanism. Here is an interesting explanation of feedback:
Click the link below the image to the right. Then, in the demonstration, slide the volume louder. Notice how once the negative feedback loop starts the volume needs to be brought lower in order to regain equalibrium again.

TokyoTom October 4, 2007 at 9:53 am

Karen, certainly Lindzen is very stubborn and vocal about it, but rather than being a challenger to the scientific establishment, he’s an aging member of it who has stubbornly refused to change his mind despite being convincingly shown to be wrong on his chief argument that would tend to reduce scientific concern over climate change (his proposal of an upper atmospheric “lens” that would reduce the greenhouse effect by releasing more heat). See How does this make him heroic?

But perhaps you are referring to how he is soldiering as the most prominent scientist who has taken on a role as public policy analyst (seven of his last eight listed publications?) – in which he has hardly been silent or overlooked: he is a favorite of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and had a column earlier this year in Newsweek. He has also received plenty of attention in the press, and from his peers (see list below).

But despite his vaunted disagreements, hwo much does Lindzen really disagree with his peers on cheif aspects of the science?

Lindzen was one of an 11-man National Academies of Science panel that in 2001 concluded that: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability.” In another WSJ op-ed, he provided further clarification: “Our primary conclusion was that despite some knowledge and agreement, the science is by no means settled. We are quite confident (1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than it was a century ago; (2) that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen over the past two centuries; and (3) that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the earth (one of many, the most important being water vapor and clouds). … What we do is know that a doubling of carbon dioxide by itself would
produce only a modest temperature increase of one degree Celsius. Larger projected increases depend on “amplification” of the carbon dioxide by more important, but poorly modeled, greenhouse gases, clouds and water vapor.”

The Ouside piece states that Lindzen believes “that human-generated CO2 accounts for no more than 30 percent of th[e] temperature rise” over the past 30 years – this is the same ballpark as the 30-40% that other scientists say that CO2 has played, among all of the many different factors: “If we take account of the uncertainties, the CO2 attribution compared to all warming effects could vary from 30 to 40% perhaps.” http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/10/attribution-of-20th-century-climate-change-to-cosub2sub

Lindzen has projected that climate will increase by only one degree C for a doubling of CO2 – if all feedback effects from water vapor are omitted. Lindzen recognizes that water vapor is a postive feedback, but had held out for a “lensing effect” of reduced high clouds to counterbalance that amplification, which his peers estimate will lead to a range of 2 to 4.5 degrees C for a CO2 doubling. Lindzen is the only person to propose that water vapor might have a net negative feedback, and it has been disproven so far, which appears to be the reason why Lindzen recently acknowledged in a debate that climate sensitivity to a CO2 doubling may be up to 2 degrees C. http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2007/06/little_report_on_climate_chang.php

So has Lindzen himself become one of the “Greenie Hysterics” who would have us believe that man is playing a significant role in altering the climate, even by simply messing with “minor atmospheric ingredients”?

What we do about our impact on climate is of course another matter, on which Lindzen has every right to contribute to the debate, even as his policy insights may be limited.



PS: Here for eager readers is a partial list of articles either primarily about Lindzen or which mention him prominently:

16 April 2007, Why So Gloomy?
Richard Lindzen, Newsweek

The take on it by his peers at RealClimate:

23 February 2007, Climate Reporting in Physics World

Feb 1, 2007, A climate of alarm

14 February 2006, Richard Lindzen’s HoL testimony

June 29, 2006, The Skeptic; Celebrated and shunned, CSU’s Bill Gray is taking heat in the global-warming debate.

June 05, 2006, Global-warming skeptics continue to punch away
The Washington Post

13 April 2006, Lindzen: point by point

May 28, 2006, The Tempest

February 29, 2000, Global Warming: The Contrarian View

June 18, 1996, SCIENTIST AT WORK: Richard S. Lindzen;A Skeptic Asks, Is It Getting Hotter, Or Is It Just the Computer Model?

Mantu Dabu October 4, 2007 at 10:42 am

“How does this make him heroic?”

Around these parts, heroic means “he agrees with us.”

8 October 4, 2007 at 11:52 am


It needs to be studied further, but a new study challenges the idea that CFCs caused the Ozone hole, or at least were as big a problem as they were made out to be.

Banning CFCs caused economic disruption, but nothing on the scale of popular global warming solutions. The risk of messing up the global economy and condemning billions to poverty is not worth the cost, in my opinion.

Daniel M. Ryan October 4, 2007 at 12:01 pm

You forgot to add the rest: “and endures regular insults because he stands up to the present-day mainstream…”

Optional ending: “…which may not be the mainstream thirty years hence.”

Charles Hanes October 4, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Thanks Karen for this post.

The most important thing to remember is that science does not operate by majority vote. The history of science offers many examples of one scientist being right while many are wrong, and vice versa. It is incorrect for anyone to conclude that the debate on this question is over. It should never be over. Further debate on scientific questions is always in order. We can never be certain of the ultimate answer.

It is essential that those that doubt the consensus should be allowed to continue to doubt it, and to express their doubt. There have been disturbing reports of non-consensus views being suppressed by major publications such as Science magazine. This should not be allowed to continue. All view should be freely expressed and debated.

ed October 4, 2007 at 2:02 pm

Check out this US Carbon Footprint Map, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States to Cities. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State & City energy consumptions, demographics and much more down to your local US City level…


October 4, 2007 at 2:04 pm

>”there is no sensible reaction of humanity towards external or self induced existential threads…which can be reconciled with neo-libralist paradigms of fighting state intervention”

Not true. If the global warming threat were real, I see no reason why polluters wouldn’t face litigation in a private judicial system.

Jake October 4, 2007 at 3:07 pm

Mmm…I also don’t believe this Al Gore crap. If we are the cause of Global Warming, then the poor Neanderthal must be blamed for the Ice Age.

I would rather concentrate on how we are destroying and poluting our habitat.

Robert M. October 4, 2007 at 3:11 pm

Anyone have an explanation why it was warmer before the industrial revolution than after? Or why Al Gore refuses to debate anyone about global warming?

It seems to me that governments around the world are forcing their views on people. Why you ask? What a great excuse to further enslave people everywhere!

Robert M. October 4, 2007 at 3:46 pm

As evidence to my theory of government involvement into the “global warming” movement, I ask that you recall a piece of propaganda that was often cited by global warming zealots. They claimed that 1998 was warmest year on record according to NASA. Turns out that NASA made a “mistake” in the calculations. It wasn’t until recently that someone outside the global warming cult caught the “mistake” (government word for deliberate forgery). Turns out the hottest year (and 3 more of the top 10 hottest years) happened in the 30s. Since back then China and India weren’t pouring CO2 into the air, you can’t blame it on that. Perhaps it was the rapid degradation of liberty that caused it back then (nature loves freedom). People are talking of nationalized medicine…

Governments have figured out the “Who controls the present, controls the past” part, but NASA obviously hasn’t learned to destroy all proof of the real past.

greg October 4, 2007 at 5:01 pm

Some time ago I emailed Prof Lindzen and asked him why the data in one of his plots was clipped. He couldn’t tell me why.

The presentation is here:
http://www.timbro.se/pdf/060505_r_lindzen.pdf (plate 29)

The data is here:

I downloaded the data, and got essentially the same plot as the one here, which does not show the clipping of Prof Lindzen’s plot:

What is up with the clipped data?

nick gray October 4, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Down here in the Antipodes, we saw a TV show which revealed another aspect of the problem. The last few minutes of the documentary revealed something else to worry about- global dimming. the exhausts from jets is a different type of pollution, which seems to reflect heat back into space. When jets were grounded after 9/11, the skies over America became less polluted and also hotter! Perhaps Global Dimming competes with global Warming. Maybe we need to pollute with different materials to fine-tune our atmosphere!

TokyoTom October 5, 2007 at 1:54 am

greg: Very interesting! So it seems that Lindzen is playing with the data to avoid noting that the climate has definitely continued to warm after 1998.

nick gray: That certain types of pollution, particularly in Asia (the “Asian brown cloud”) is counterbalancing warming is well known, and is the basis for discussions – advanced on these pages by Dr. Reisman – that we should give serious consideration to possible geoengineering approaches.

Karen: We have previously discussed Cockburn’s clear nonsense (and that of Hertzberg, on whom he purports to rely). http://blog.mises.org/mt/comments?entry_id=6555. Before you buy it, can you demonstrate that in his flailings Cockburn has constructed any arguments that would actually support a drowning man?

To aid the interested, here are some links on Cockburn and his conversation with Monbiot:

http://www.zmag.org/debatesglobalwarming.html (links to posts between Cockburn and Monbiot, plus some others)

Chris Schoneveld October 5, 2007 at 1:54 am

I just repeat here what I wrote to the International Herald Tribune (which they edited too freely by the way):


Ban Ki Moon’s confidence that “we can combat climate” (September 28) is not just an optimistic outlook at how mankind can influence earth’s climate system, it also raises a more philosophical question as to the desirability of actively seeking such an influence. If today’s global warming is just a consequence of natural climate fluctuations, similar to the well documented climate changes in geological history, wouldn’t we rather adapt to a warming world than to spend trillions of dollars on a futile exercise to contain carbon dioxide emissions?

As long as the causes of the many earlier climate changes are not well understood one cannot unequivocally separate the natural causes from possibly manmade ones. The often claimed scientific consensus discourages a healthy scientific debate between the so called sceptics and believers in AGW.

Unfortunately, there has never been a UN organised conference on climate change where climate change sceptics were invited to present their case for the sake of balance.


Only over the last 3 decades there is a correlation between rising CO2 and rising tropospheric temperatures (mainly Northern Hemisphere) and as we all know correlation does not have to mean causation. And the notion that a warmer world is going to be catastrophic is hard to swallow since it would imply that the climate as experienced 30 years ago was the ideal one for life on earth. What an extraordinary coincidence.

Brad Arnold October 5, 2007 at 6:46 am

Yeah, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Dumping over half a terraton of carbon gas into the air is inconsequencial, huh?

“We now have evidence from the Earth’s history that a similar event happened fifty-five million years ago when a geological accident released into the air more than a terraton of gaseous carbon compounds. As a consequence the temperature in the arctic and temperate regions rose eight degree Celsius and in tropical regions about five degrees, and it took over one hundred thousand years before normality was restored. We have already put more than half this quantity of carbon gas into the air and now the Earth is weakened by the loss of land we took to feed and house ourselves. In addition, the sun is now warmer, and as a consequence the Earth is now returning to the hot state it was in before, millions of years ago, and as it warms, most living things will die.” (The Revenge of Gaia)

TokyoTom October 5, 2007 at 8:07 am

Brad, you may be onto something, but quoting the speculative aspects franky undermines both your credibility and case here. You should have ended before the “Earth is weakened” mumbo jumbo; and facts, figures and links are indispensible for persuading others.

Robert M. October 5, 2007 at 8:21 am

Yeah Brad, and thirty years ago we were all going to die in an ice age, 7 years ago we were all going to die due to a programming error, every few years we’re all going to die from an asteriod, the spanish bombed our ship, etc.

I miss the good ole days when we only had yellow journalism, instead of yellow journalism allied with yellow science and idiotic hollywood types (“Like omg my palm reader just told me that my carbon footprint was too big, so I’m going to have my driver drive a hybrid so my Louis Vuittons will still fit.”)

Scientists that people trust so much: “Ah yes, well there is this stuff called dark matter. What does it look like? Well you can’t see it. Unlike everything else in existance, it doesn’t give off any radiation. We know it must be there though, because if not then our theories and assumptions are all wrong, and lets face it, we’re never wrong. Would people keep giving us their tax money if we weren’t always right? Besides, Johnson has a theory that it smells like Thanksgiving Dinner.”

Sorry if I have a hard time believing anything that modern scientists say.

Anthony October 5, 2007 at 9:13 am

Saying that the good effects of GW are desirable completely ignores that value is subjective and is also tantamount to saying that if a criminal somehow inadvertently benefits his victim by damaging his property, then he’s off the hook. No consistent Austrian would maintain such a position.

Brad, scare-mongering without facts is not going to get you much around here.

Peggy McGilligan October 15, 2007 at 10:04 pm

Nobel Peace Prize: NEW Global Warming Antiperspirant

AP – Al Gore has for a long time been full of hot air. He has a vivid imagination about the world around him. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. Al Gore’s inherent mistrust of the seasons seems to stem from an episode of the Twilight Zone, in which the Earth gets too close to the Sun. Summers are hot & sticky, and Al is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures needed to create a more effective global deodorant.

If former college roommate, Tommy Lee Jones, could save the City of Los Angeles from errant magma (Volcano), and the world entire from a giant cockroach (Men In Black), then certainly big Al Gore deserves a prize for his Global Antiperspirant Initiative to prevent global wetness, and the meltdown of Earth. The same active ingredient and trusted formula that kept our leaders dry during the Cold War – now in regular or unscented. As the planet heats up, you don’t have to! Clinton tested: guaranteed to leave no trace.

Now that Global Warming has been legitimized, a “private group” out of Monterey California wants to seed the North Atlantic with iron particulate, to help plankton absorb more carbon dioxide (greenhouse gasses). Strategy: “cleanup the planet and make a buck on the side.” Like it or not, here’s how another of their ill-conceived political scams sparked the worst terrorist attacks on United States soil: http://theseedsof9-11.com

TokyoTom October 15, 2007 at 11:29 pm

Peggy, maybe you can actually give us a link on the “ocean seeding” proposal, rather than send us off to look at blame for 9-11?

shooshmon February 10, 2010 at 9:16 am

I just want to ask everyone who is worried about global warming a simple question. Currently, there are 380ppm of co2 in the atmosphere. During the Cambrian period, co2 levels were at 7,000ppm. Then, if you want to average out co2 levels, you find that we are at a historically low amount of co2 in our atmosphere. How can you people not understand this difference?

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William Sole April 12, 2011 at 1:19 am

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